Friday, July 15, 2016

Linked by Albert-laszlo Barabasi

So, I had to read this for a class, which meant that I took notes on every single chapter. So... my review really just consists of my notes. So this review is really just more for me to remember things than for anyone else.

First line:

February 7, 2000 should have been a big day for Yahoo.

The First Link: Introduction - the book opens with the story of mafiaboy, the teenager that managed to bring down Yahoo. Then it changes, quite inexplicably, to Christianity and gives everything to credit. I really don't know if the author simply hasn't read the Bible, or if he's doing one of those things where people pretend that Jesus didn't say the things he said he did. But whatever, the point of this chapter is that the book is about Networks.

The second link: The Random Universe - we have Euler (truly an amazing guy) to thank for the graph theory, which is the basis of how we think about networks. Also, the most brilliant mathematicians are the most eccentric. And from Erdos and Renyi, if we have just an average of one link (connection) per node (e.g. Person), then we have a cluster in which everyone is connected.

The Third Link: Six Degrees of Separation - this concept really emphasises that we live in a small, dense world. Also, I'm starting to get the hang of the story -> concept structure of the book. Interesting, when the author did a study of the web in 1998-1999, the web had 800 million nodes, but it's diameter was only 18.59, aka around 19 degrees of separation. So in other words, the interconnected nature of the network leads to relatively short paths.

Also, 6 degrees of separation may be an overestimation because we don't know everything about our acquaintances and may miss the most efficient route.

The Fourth Link: Small Worlds - The story of weak ties. I remember Dayre-ing about this before, but to quote:

In "The Strength of Weak Ties" Granovetter proposed something that sounds preposterous at first: when it comes to finding a job, getting news, launching a restaurant or spreading the latest fad, our weak social ties are more important than our cherished strong friendships.

Ok, so this chapter is about clustering. Basically, it's an improvement on the Network model by Erdos and Renyi, in that it accounts for both strong and weak ties, making it much more realistic.

The Fifth Link: Hubs and Connectors - This introduces the idea of hubs, which will be familiar to you if you've read Malcolm Gladwell's The Topping Point. The chapter, however, ends by admitting that hubs seem to be a mystery and that they challenge the status quo, so I guess that's the next topic.

The Sixth Link: The 80/20 Rule - From the Pareto rule, we go into the power law, which is related to hubs (hubs being the thing that early network theories said didn't exist). So the question is, why does the power law indicate order coming out of chaos? I don't know, so on to Chapter 7.

The Seventh Link: Rich get richer - The author makes a momentous discovery, writes paper in 10 days. Paper is rejected, but he manages to change editor's mind.

Ok, the actual substance of the chapter is

Real networks are governed by two laws: growth and preferential attachment.

Basically, as the network grows, nodes prefer to form links with other nodes that have many links. I wonder if this is how the first mover's advantage works? I mean, the book calls it "rich get richer", but it sounds like first mover's advantage to me. Something to look into

Oh, and the answer to the question in the previous chapter? The power law isn't about turning chaos into order. It's about "organising principles acting at each stage of the network formation process".

The Eighth Link: Einstein's Legacy - the book anticipated my question, and here, it tackles first mover's advantage. Google is the first case study here - being a success story that was late to the game. Well, to cut the long story short, it's not timing, but 'fitness' (how useful they are, to put it another way), that determine which nodes become hubs. Then there's something about the Bose-Einstein equation, which is quite tough, but the consequences are: "the winner can take all"

The Ninth Link: Achille's Hill - natural systems can withstand high error rates, unlike man-made systems. Except the internet and any network generated on the scale-free network. Apparently hubs keep networks robust? At any rate, error tolerance is a good thing, but it does mean we are vulnerable to attacks (kinda contradictory, imo).

The Tenth Link: Viruses and Fads - what does the spread of AIDS have to do with going viral on the Internet? Both are things that spread over the network. From the Pfizer study, innovations spread from innovators to hubs to the masses, like the product life cycle. Then there is the threshold model, which is the level of evidence we need to accept something new. And if we figure out the critical threshold, we can figure out if the innovation will succeed.

The Eleventh Link: The Awakening Internet - This is kinda like a mini history of the Internet. If you want a more comprehensive look, definitely read Masterswitch by Tim Wu

The Twelfth Link: The Fragmented Web - Continuing from the previous chapters, the Internet is fragmented into smaller communities, which makes sense if you think about it. But it's really hard to find those communities (for researchers).

The Thirteenth Link: The Map of Life - On genetics and networks. To be honest, I don't understand much of it, but basically (I guess) everything is a network.

The Fourteenth Link: The Network Economy - I love the title of this. Totally looking forward to reading it!

And guess what? It turns out that the "old boy's network" is created by small world dynamics. Also, cascading failures (e.g Asian financial crisis) are because of network economies

Networks do not offer a miracle drug, a strategy that makes you invincible in any business environment. The truly important role networks play is in helping existing organisations adapt to rapidly changing market conditions.

Ok, this is very timely. It's easy to see the Network as a panacea, and that as long as we know that it exists, we will succeed. But, as the quote says, the Network isn't necessarily the end, it may only be the means to the end.

The Last Link: Web Without a Spider - to sum: there's a hierarchy of hubs that keep networks close together. But, we haven't completely understood the network yet. Hopefully, though, we can in the future.

And the book is more or less done.

It was an interesting book, but I can't think of anything to say about it that doesn't involve me summarising it. Like, the book anticipated my questions, so... There's not much I can say. And that does sum up the entire review.

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